5 More Things That Aren’t Necessary For Being a Healthy Vegan

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The long-awaited sequel is here! The post I did back in November of last year titled “10 Things That Aren’t Necessary For Being a Healthy Vegan” was so popular(a big thanks to everyone who shared it), I decided to do a followup. Many things were left out because I didn’t want the post to be too long, so I prioritized the most common things that I believe are problematic. Here are 5 more things you don’t need to be a healthy vegan:

1) Eat alkaline

This form of pseudoscience has a following both within the vegan/plant-based community and misguided health nuts among omnivores. It overlaps to a large extent with rawfoodism, though isn’t necessarily the same thing. The idea behind this diet is that most people eat diets that are too “acid-forming”, and that an acidic environment inside the body can lead to serious diseases, including cancer.

By eating an alkaline diet, you are helping to prevent this unhealthy acidic environment in your body and the diseases it causes. Some advocates go even further and claim it can be used to treat serious diseases. Basically, eating alkaline means consuming lots of fresh fruits and vegetables(since they are generally alkaline), which is excellent advice, though alkaline gurus recommend it for the wrong reasons. There is virtually no scientific basis to this type of diet. You can’t do much to alter your PH through diet, and your body works hard to make sure your PH stays within a very limited range to keep you healthy.

Some medical conditions can lead to a significant shift in PH, which can be dangerous; the medical conditions associated with a PH imbalance require urgent medical care. Assuming you have this type of problem, you cannot fix it through diet. There is no good reason whatsoever to embrace this fad diet and its idiotic restrictions.

2) Give up all grain including bread

One of the hallmarks of disordered eating is avoiding perfectly healthy food for irrational, pseudoscientific reasons. It’s disturbing witnessing all the over the top fear-mongering on social media concerning soy foods, olive oil, cooked food, and even staples like grain and bread. Grain-free is yet another ridiculous, unnecessary restriction that greatly increases your chances of failing at veganism. It’s no coincidence that the zealots pushing this “grain is poison” madness are very often rawfoodists, though they have allies among the paleo, high meat/protein crowd.

At its most basic, the idea behind this type of dietary restriction is that grains will ruin your health because we supposedly didn’t evolve to eat them. Grains cause obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and Adam Sandler movies. As always with pseudoscience based restrictions, there is virtually no evidence for these claims, except that in a generic sense there is a grain of truth to it. Eating too much of anything can lead to health problems, not just grain. Yes, grain isn’t perfect, it contains “toxins” like phytates, but there is no such thing as a “perfect” food or a “perfect” diet. If you had to abstain from something because it contains small quantities of “toxins” and therefore falls short of perfection, you’d have to give up everything and end up starving to death.

Now while a minority of the population are better off restricting carbs or eating high-protein, this approach doesn’t appear to benefit most people. This fad is best ignored. Grain won’t harm you when consumed in reasonable amounts; whole grains are one of the cornerstones of a healthy vegan diet.

3) Focus on super foods

The most important thing you should realize about “super foods” is that this is purely a marketing term, not a special class of food recognized and recommended by reputable health professionals. That said, there’s nothing wrong with eating them, just don’t get carried away with thinking there is something magical about them.

What you really should be focusing on is eating a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. The wider the variety, the better. The criteria for deciding what is a “super food” is usually pretty arbitrary and changes with time and what is fashionable at the moment. Since antioxidants are all the rage right now, “super foods” very often have a high antioxidant content. All too often, the evidence showing some unique medicinal effect for a certain “super food” is weak or preliminary, but that doesn’t stop health guru authors, supplement pushers, and retailers from hyping them. Again, “super foods” can be part of a healthy diet, but there’s no good reason to consume them in supplement form.

Ignore the hype and just eat several servings of fruits and vegetables every day – darker, more colorful ones are generally more nutritious.

4) Go macrobiotic

The popularity of the macrobatic diet waxes and wanes. Right now, this Japanese type diet doesn’t seem all that popular, but all it would take to make it popular again is a major celebrity endorsement. Macrobiotics isn’t a vegan or vegetarian diet(it usually includes fish) but it comes close, so it is easy enough to make it vegan.

For the most part, a macrobiotic diet is pretty healthy(though it can be salty), at least when you compare it to the way most Americans eat. It emphasizes fruits and vegetables, legumes(especially soy), and whole grains. So what’s the problem?

The problem is that macrobiotics is an overly restrictive diet based on pseudoscience. Although it gets a lot of things right, it does so for the wrong reasons. An important feature of macrobiotics are these arcane, complicated food combining rules, the purpose of which is to properly balance the “yin and yang” elements of food to help you achieve optimum health. For example, perfectly healthful members of the nightshade family like potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant are excluded from this diet because they are considered too “yin”. It really should go without saying that there is no scientific basis to “yin” or “yang”; you could be missing out on a lot of nutritious foods if you follow these nonsensical rules.

There really is nothing macrobiotics can add to an already healthy plant-based diet except unnecessary restrictions, so there’s no good reason to embrace macrobiotics.

5) Go paleo

Finally, the diet that combines the best of both worlds, with incredible health benefits reflecting this best of both worlds approach. However, does it live up to the hype?

The paleo diet, which mimics the way our caveman ancestors ate is thought by proponents to be the ideal human diet since we evolved to eat this way. Or at least that is what paleos want you to believe. In essence, the paleo diet is really just the latest iteration of high protein dieting; it’s more or less a successor to the Atkins diet.

The central idea to paleo is that if you want to be optimally healthy, eat like a caveman. That’s because cavemen ate the way nature intended us to eat, we “evolved” to eat a paleo diet. Since cavemen didn’t eat processed foods, the paleo diet excludes processed foods like refined sugars, oils, etc. This is generally a good idea, though some people get a little too carried away with this. Paleos also typically eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and don’t consume dairy, so it should be easy for vegans to go paleo, right? Only if you ignore the fact that paleos typically eat a lot of meat and generally forgo grain and legumes, and that the diet is followed purely for health reasons.

To me, there’s always been something very oxymoronic about this “paleo-vegan” phenomenon. After all, a great way to describe the paleo diet is “wholefoodism for meat-lovers”. People who think paleo and vegan are compatible or combine well are usually clueless hipsters obsessed with all things trendy. I struggle to think of two things more antithetical than veganism and paleoism.

A lot of half-truths, distortions and pseudoscience underpin the paleo philosophy, but I’m mainly concerned here with how paleo-veganism is often promoted as an improved version of veganism by paleo-vegan adherents. In a lot of ways, it’s certainly healthier than the way most Americans eat, but does it offer anything to vegans?

As far as I can tell, it doesn’t offer anything to vegans except unnecessary restrictions which puts them on a slippery slope to disordered eating. Like I said before, a small percentage of the population may benefit from minimizing grain and carbs, and eating more high protein foods, but one need not go paleo to accomplish this. If you eat a whole food vegan diet, embracing paleo is largely redundant, since you’re already excluding dairy, and eating lots of fruits and vegetables. Science doesn’t suggest that paleo-vegans are healthier than regular vegans, or that this is the best diet.

In my opinion, just ignore this fad or anyone who fancies themselves as a reborn caveman. We already knew that eating fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole foods was good for us, and that dairy isn’t necessary, well before paleo came along.

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These are just 5 more things that may screw up your vegan diet, on top of the 10 from the previous post. I could have easily added several more to this list, but it starts getting repetitive. I write these lists because I am troubled by all the bad health advice that encourages disordered eating being spread on the blogosphere and social media. I run into ex-vegans all the time and I usually find they embraced a type of extreme diet based on lots of terrible advice and/or unnecessary restrictions like those on this list. Vegans shouldn’t be made to feel guilty by fellow vegans for not following some “perfect” version of a vegan diet, when there is no good reason to follow this “perfect” diet. I want veganism to be as practical and evidence-based as possible, not difficult and esoteric.

Pseudoscience and misinformation does nothing to help vegans improve their health, or for that matter, in case you’ve forgotten, live an ethical lifestyle that does not exploit animals, which is all that veganism is supposed to be about.

Related articles:

There’s no such thing as a superfood. It’s nonsense.

 More Trouble for Antioxidants

2015: The Year in Joggling

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At the Yonkers Marathon in October. In spite of some difficulties, I managed to complete it.

2015 was a particularly eventful year in the world of joggling. It had its highs and lows, the biggest low by far was when Michal Kapral was not allowed to joggle the NYC Marathon by the fascists who organize the event. He ran the event without juggling and made big news anyway. For a synopsis on all that happened in the joggling world in 2015, read Michal Kapral’s post, The Year in Joggling 2015.

In my neck of the woods in the world of joggling, I’ve also had my highs and lows, with my low point being the disaster that was the Yonkers marathon. Due to knee issues on an especially hilly section of the race, it was my slowest marathon ever, finishing in over 4 hours. By some miracle I didn’t drop the balls, and besides this, during the marathon I joggled my fastest 30k(2:29:36), half-marathon(1:39:15), 10 mile(1:13:23), and 15k(1:08:07) ever. The crowd support was priceless and often pretty funny. The lesson learned from this is to take it easy on the hills. Luckily this knee issue/injury was minor, and I am currently joggling long distances again.

Besides this, earlier last year I completed another Looper Bowl, though as a runner, not a joggler. Even I’m not crazy enough to joggle on a snowy, hilly trail for several miles. This hilly trail run was held in early February during an arctic blast after several snow storms, so there was a lot of snow on the ground. My feet are still angry at me for what I put them through at the beginning of this run when it was only a few degrees above zero, though I had fun overall and didn’t get lost this time. Had even more fun joggling in the city during the summer.

In November, much to my surprise, I was mentioned and quoted in the NY Times in their article about Michal Kapral, “Running While Juggling Is Banned by Marathon Organizers”, even though I had nothing to do with this event. Also quoted were joggling super-stars Zach Warren, circus performer and development worker in Afghanistan who has broken world records in unicycling and joggling, and Richard Alec Ross, a development worker in Central African Republic, who, among his other duties teaches joggling to refugee children.

The more time goes by and I forget about the bad, the more 2015 looks like an extraordinary year of joggling. It may not have been my best year, or the year in which public perception of joggling has changed for the better so that it’s seen as a sport and not as a circus act, but we can dream. More importantly, I also dream of the world going vegan; it’s fantastic being able to combine two things that I love. In the mean time, I will continue to joggle, and intend to make 2016 my comeback year; besides this, I’ve also recently taken up a cross-training activity that I will get to in another post.

 

10 Things That Aren’t Necessary For Being a Healthy Vegan

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If you are totally new to veganism, please read “The Plant Plate” first. This vegan eating guide by RD Ginny Messina will tell you all that is necessary for being a healthy vegan. That guide basically shows how I eat.

 

If there’s one thing the media can be counted on to do with regularity, it is bashing veganism by conflating it with eating disorders. Every time an ex-vegan blogger or celebrity shares their story about why they stopped being vegan, usually with horror stories about how sick they became, the media and many people jump at the chance to portray veganism as an extreme, unhealthy diet that will ruin your health.

It almost always seems the “vegan” in question was mainly motivated by health fanaticism, and had an eating disorder. Besides this, they were usually a devoted follower of one or more quack gurus who advocate a variety of unnecessary restrictions and practices that have nothing to do with veganism. The only things these restrictions do is make it harder to follow a vegan diet than it should be. They do not make it healthier.

Unfortunately, overly restrictive eating has become a little too common these days in the vegan/plant-based community due to the many gurus who advocate some or all of what is on the list below. It’s time to set the record straight about what really constitutes a healthy vegan diet/lifestyle. However, instead of “here’s what you need to do to be a healthy vegan” kind of post with health tips virtually everyone already knows, I thought I would do it from the other direction. So in the interest of making a vegan diet as easy, practical, healthful, and science-based as possible, here are 10 things that aren’t necessary for being a healthy vegan:

1) Eat only organic

Contrary to what you may have heard, organic isn’t necessarily healthier. Yet many vegans are very committed to eating mostly or nothing but organic due to the belief that conventional foods are laden with disease-causing pesticides and toxins.

The scientific evidence however doesn’t consistently show that organic is healthier. Organic foods also have pesticide residue on them, both natural and synthetic. The amount of pesticide residue is generally minuscule, and much of that can be washed off before consumption. The only thing going organic is almost certain to do is make your vegan diet/lifestyle more expensive.

As far as organic being better for the environment, that is controversial and beyond the scope of this post.

2) Go gluten-free

If you don’t have celiac disease or wheat allergy you don’t need to give up wheat or gluten-containing foods. Strangely, some vegans who don’t have celiac disease adhere to this as if gluten was a form of meat. They could be missing out on a lot of nutritious foods by going gluten-free. To make matters worse, gluten-free products are often more expensive than their gluten-containing counterparts. Save your money and ignore this fad.

3) Detox

On second thought, you actually do need to detox. Fortunately, if your liver and kidneys are functioning properly, this is being done for you automatically. As far as “detoxing” through diet goes, this ritual often seems to be the common denominator of those who become “vegan” as a result of being health-obsessed. All-too-often, I stumble upon a vegan health blog that recommends a juice fasting regimen and/or worthless supplements to help the body “detoxify”. This is pseudo-scientific garbage. It’s a great idea for most people to eat or even drink more fruits and vegetables, but they won’t help you remove “toxins”. If you believe you’ve been poisoned, skip the juice bar and seek medical help.

4) Give up soy

This is very similar to going gluten-free in which a perfectly healthy food is demonized for no good reason. Unless you have a soy allergy, there’s no good reason to avoid soy foods. The idea that eating soy foods will give men feminine traits is hooey. If you don’t have thyroid issues, it’s very unlikely that soy in moderation will interfere with your thyroid.

5) Eliminate processed food 100%

I don’t believe that eating healthy should mean completely abstaining from processed foods. Of course, “processed food” isn’t easy to define, but foods that contain a lot of sodium, added sugars, or other additives is a good approximation. Eating a mostly whole food diet is a good idea, but I don’t think that should mean you can’t occasionally eat processed food like meat analogues for convenience. Studies don’t show that eating some processed foods will ruin your health if your diet is healthy otherwise.

6) Spirulina supplements

This type of supplement, which is derived from cyanobacteria(blue-green algae), is largely marketed toward athletes, vegan and non-vegan alike as an “energy booster” or “recovery” aid. It also supposedly has a plethora of other amazing health benefits that the “ambassadors” who push these magic pills on social media will be quick to inform you of. And it’s all nothing but hot air. I often call it “The Pond Scum Scam”.

While it is true that spirulina is nutritionally dense, and that NASA has done some research on it, there’s nothing unique to it that you can’t get from other plant foods for a lot less money. There’s also the potential for contamination and vitamin B12 analogue issues with this type of supplement, not to mention the unpleasant “fishy” taste some users complain about. Even though I’ve never tried them, the pseudo-science used in the promotion of these expensive supplements always left a bad taste in my mouth. Ignore the hype and just eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and eat trail mix or an energy bar after a vigorous workout.

7) Go 100% raw

I’ve already covered rawfoodism in “My Position on Rawfoodism“, but it deserves to be mentioned here because many of the “vegans” with eating disorders who fail at “veganism” were actually rawfoodists. It just really bothers me how much rawfoodism is intertwined with veganism these days.

As a former rawfoodist, I believe rawfoodism has little to do with health and is more about attaining some bizarre, quasi-spiritual level of “purity”. It’s difficult to find a justification for this kind of diet that isn’t based on some form of pseudo-science or the naturalistic fallacy. It’s even more difficult, in my experience, to stick to this diet. People who are drawn to this diet are often extreme perfectionists.

I keep hoping this dangerous fad will go away, but for some reason it continues to linger on as a thorn in the side of the vegan movement.

8) Give up all oil including olive oil

Already covered this here, but this also shows no sign of going away in spite of the potential for this to alienate the many millions of Mediterraneans, Hispanics and millions of others who love their olive oil. Besides this, fat helps you feel full and also helps you absorb fat-soluble nutrients. The tiny number of doctors and researchers who advocate this approach all seem to live in this bubble that is impervious to the latest scientific research which contradicts them. In moderation, fats like olive oil are healthful, and won’t ruin the health of vegans who eat a healthy diet.

9) Buying a Vitamix

The purchase of a Vitamix is often thought of as an important milestone in many a vegan’s journey. I don’t have one, or any blender for that matter, and neither do many other vegans I know, but some vegans can’t live without it.

Unlike other things on this list, there’s nothing wrong with purchasing a Vitamix or blender to make smoothies or prepare meals, it’s just that I don’t see it as being absolutely necessary. It’s great if you have one, but it’s also great if you don’t have one. I can just as easily eat my vegetables in salads, soups, sauces and pasta dishes without one.

10) Eat “clean”

“Clean eating” can loosely be thought of as combining most of what is on the list above. It can sort of be thought of as an umbrella term for eating organic, all-natural, whole food, and additive-free, often with a good helping of raw foods. Note that I didn’t say “animal food free” – “clean-eating” in essence has nothing to do with veganism or eating 100% plant-based for that matter. Granted, some health vegans may think of their diet as the ultimate “clean” diet because to them animal foods are totally “unclean”, but this ignores the fact that most “clean eaters” are not vegan.

“Clean eating” overlaps to a large degree with rawfoodism, and has similar motivations in that it’s based on an obsession with purity.”Clean eating” is also interrelated with detox pseudo-science, since if you should fail to adhere to your strict “clean eating” regimen for even one meal, all you gotta do is “detox” to reverse all the supposed negative health effects the toxic food caused. Since so many different, and mutually contradictory dietary approaches are embracing the “clean eating” trend, it can’t be rigorously or universally defined. Indeed, except to the extent that it implies a health or purity obsession, or an embrace of pseudo-science, “clean eating” is almost meaningless.

Besides all this, “clean eating” smacks of dietary elitism, and the sooner we get rid of this annoying term, the better.

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These are just a few of the things vegans don’t have to do to be healthy. I could have listed many more, but I didn’t want to go on forever. I chose to list these not just because of how common they are but also because of how they increase the chances of failing at veganism. To the people who continue to advocate things on this list: Please stop making veganism more complicated than it has to be!

If you think I missed any big ones, feel free to mention them in the comments.

Followup to this post: 5 More Things That Aren’t Necessary For Being a Healthy Vegan

Related posts:

Vegan Diets and Orthorexia: How Should Activists Respond?

The Clean Eating Delusion

Why Your Detox Is Bullsh*t 

Michal Kapral prevented from joggling at NYC Marathon

This is arguably the biggest bummer in joggling history. Michal Kapral, the world’s fastest marathon joggler, has been denied permission to joggle in the NYC marathon due to “security concerns”: World Record Holder Denied Permission to Joggle New York City Marathon.

This is absurd. 3 small millet-stuffed beanbags are now deemed “security threats” under draconian new rules that ban all props. Michal Kapral was planning on breaking his old world record at the NYC marathon and trained very hard for this event. It saddens me both as a joggler and as a native New Yorker that security concerns would come to this.

This isn’t just a setback for Michal Kapral, but a setback for the sport of joggling. Unfortunately, I suspect that there’s more to this than just security concerns. Some people just don’t take joggling seriously, and this may very well include the organizers of the NYC marathon, though they have a long history of supporting our sport.

Let’s hope that the organizers of the NYC marathon rethink their decision before November 1st. It would be terrible if other marathons followed NYC’s example. In the mean time, Kapral is looking for another marathon that is more joggler-friendly to break his old record.

Tossed Out: No Joggling Allowed at New York City Marathon

Yonkers Marathon Race Report

At the Yonkers marathon

At the Yonkers marathon

What can one say about the Yonkers marathon that hasn’t already been said? It has been described over the years as a “beast of a marathon”, or even a “monster” because of its seemingly never-ending hills. This old marathon is still considered one of the nation’s most challenging. And this year the beast got the better of me.

I won’t bore you with endless details, so instead here are the stats:

Finishing time: 4:10:03(my slowest marathon ever) compared to 3:40 last year

Rank: 109 out of 220 finishers

I was 33 out of 53 in the 30 to 39 age group

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The good news is that I didn’t drop the balls once(2 years in a row no drops!). In fact I’ve been using the same Gballz beanbags since my first marathon. So why was I so slow this year? I think the rerouting of the marathon route made it even hillier, and I may have started out a little too fast. By the time I got to this hill at mile 23 I could barely move and I felt like I injured my right knee, and so I had to walk for a little while after. Still, I PRed some shorter distances and got tremendous crowd support. It was great going through east Yonkers for a change, unlike the other 2 times I did this race when it was a double loop around west Yonkers.

As far as I can tell my training was adequate, though maybe I should have done some more long runs. Although I’m a little disappointed with my performance, this was a valuable learning experience. I believe I’m already a better runner/joggler because of this experience.

Thank you city of Yonkers and a big thanks to everyone who cheered me on as I passed.

If you ran the Yonkers marathon, I would love hearing from you in the comments.

Yonkers Marathon here I come!

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At the Yonkers marathon last year

As I’m sure many of you already know, on October 18th I will joggle the Yonkers marathon for the 3rd time, my 4th marathon overall. I’m really excited about it this year because it’s on an almost entirely new route. The first several miles are the same as last year, but instead of being a double loop, it’s one big loop that incorporates much of eastern Yonkers with all its glorious hills. Another reason I’m excited is because it’s in the middle of October instead of the end of September like the last few years, so I’m expecting much cooler weather this time around.

My goal is to finish in 3:30, compared to 3:40 last year. I also hope to run the entire race without dropping, just like last year. Even I’m still surprised I managed to joggle the entire marathon without dropping. It was blissful how all that training paid off, much to the enjoyment of friends and the enthusiastic crowds at the marathon. A big thank you to all my friends and supporters, I couldn’t do it without you. Well, maybe I could, but it wouldn’t be as fun. Let’s continue to take vegan athletics to new heights!

See you there!

Say goodbye to olive oil? No way!

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It seems there’s always something you must eliminate from your diet if you really want to be healthy. Or at least, that is something a certain sub-group of the vegan/plant-based community who supposedly have a monopoly on truth and perfect health want you to believe. For many, it’s gluten, for others, it’s soy, but what gets demonized the most nowadays are oils, including and especially olive oil. Oil-free veganism is all the rage these days, with some advocates of this approach getting frustrated whenever they run into skeptical vegans like me who disagree with them. Although they eschew all oil, olive oil is usually the main target of oil-free proponents because of the common, largely accurate idea that it can be healthy in moderation.

Where did this bizarre notion that olive oil is bad for you come from? A group of plant-based doctors have been pushing this idea for years now, based on some flawed studies that don’t always have control groups. To say that there is room for skepticism based on their research is the understatement of the century. Besides the inherent flaws of these studies, another reason I am very skeptical is because I prefer looking at the totality of the evidence, not just what a small group of researchers are saying. Overwhelmingly, the evidence from the wider scientific community doesn’t agree with them. The idea that all fat is bad is something the scientific community repudiated a long time ago.

Beyond just being skeptical, as an animal advocate, I don’t like placing any more restrictions on a vegan diet than is necessary(read Ginny Messina’s articles below for her take on this). Most people think a vegan diet is too restricted as it is. Why recommend eliminating something that science shows is okay or even healthy in moderation? Numerous studies show that people following a Mediterranean diet, which very often includes olive oil, have significantly lower heart disease risk. This isn’t to say that you have to consume olive oil, or that it’s okay to consume it in large amounts, it’s just that it shouldn’t be the big issue it currently is.

I’ll gladly give up olive oil when and if the evidence shows it is harmful in moderation. I tire of hearing “I’m giving up olive oil because I attended a lecture by the brilliant Dr. So and So and he convinced me it’s the most horrible thing ever”. I also don’t care for the often hypocritical whole foodist dogmatism that underpins this anti-olive oil stance and which forbids consuming anything that isn’t considered a “whole food”. For some, overly rigid whole foodism is a stepping stone to the even more extreme and pseudo-scientific world of rawfoodism. Sometimes it seems like there’s a bizarre kind of competition going on to see who can survive on the most restricted diet.

If you care about your health, completely eliminating olive oil from your diet is probably pointless(unless your doctor recommends you do so or if you have a condition that makes it difficult for you to metabolize fat); if you care about helping animals, this is pointless, a big distraction, and potentially a hindrance in vegan outreach efforts. While I follow and recommend a mostly whole food vegan diet, I am not overly rigid about it, though I was more rigid years ago. A little oil or a few sweets are going to harm the health of a healthy distance joggler like me? Really? To me, as a non-expert, it all comes down to what consensus science says, not just a few doctors or scientists with an extreme minority view. For this reason, you won’t see me making dietary recommendations on this blog that have little to no basis in science. I realize that my approach makes me a black sheep to much of the vegan community, but so be it.

Related articles:

  1. Olive oil, Health, And Advocacy
  2. Vegan Health: The Fatty Acids
  3. Mayo Clinic: If olive oil is high in fat, why is it considered healthy?
  4. Farewell, Low-Fat: Why Scientists Applaud Lifting A Ban On Fat
  5. Help Animals With Healthful and Practical Vegan Diets
  6. Nutrition Professor Says “No Broccoli Health Benefits. Ditch ASAP!”

Summer Joggling Highlights

I’m sorry if my absence has worried anyone. The rumors about me drowning while juggle-swimming out to sea are greatly exaggerated. No, I haven’t forgotten you, my dear readers, it’s just harder to blog consistently when I spend so much of my free time outside during the summer. Though I haven’t joggled any official races so far this year, lots of exciting things have been going on recently, some of which may be difficult to believe. I don’t blame you if you don’t believe what follows.

Here’s what I’ve been up to this summer:

On Sunday, June 14th I joggled all the way from Mount Vernon to Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan, a distance of 23.3 miles. It took me 4 hours and 8 minutes to complete this journey from the quiet suburbs to the noisy maelstrom that is the Big Apple, and I didn’t drop the balls once. It was in the mid 70s at the beginning and 85 toward the end. I ran this exact route before back in November 2013, but I dropped several times.

The reason it’s a big deal to me that I didn’t drop during this run is all the endless distractions on this route, especially after leaving Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. The heat and humidity and the fact that it was almost totally cloudless that day also weren’t very helpful. Since the Hudson river path runs along the West Side highway, there’s a ton of noise from all the traffic, as well as exhaust fumes. On the path there were many cyclists, runners, skaters, and the occasional freak. It got crowded at times and I had to run around many people. I had to take several short breaks to refuel or rehydrate.

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I got a lot of comments and support as usual, but I think some Manhattanites are kind of used to joggling. Even with everything going on, I did surprisingly well and had no major fumbles. I was exhausted the last few miles and upon completing I was ecstatic. I was shocked that I didn’t drop once while running the entire length of Manhattan and then some! Besides weariness, I was dealing with sensory overload from big city craziness. This is why I don’t run in the city very often. After runs like this, I appreciate joggling in the woods a lot more.

Besides this, I managed to not drop at all during all joggling runs from July 7, to July 21, for a total of 102 miles of dropless joggling. My previous record was 70 miles without dropping. Yes, I did drop while doing juggle chi many times during this time frame, but that’s a completely separate activity. I came very close to dropping so many times during that 2 week no drops streak. It will be difficult repeating that. For what it’s worth, I don’t think this indicates I can joggle a 100 mile ultra-marathon without dropping.

Though it feels good to not drop, it comes at the expense of not challenging myself enough. In part, I was able to do this because I avoided doing some complex tricks that I still struggle with. However, I did plenty of simple tricks. It often got unbearably hot during those 2 weeks, but making sure I was properly-hydrated and had enough electrolytes helped prevent any serious heat issues.

On top of this, to celebrate the long awaited grand reopening of the old High Bridge, I joggled across it twice on July 25th. It had been closed for over 40 years and the city only recently finished renovating it. It was a really big celebration with so much going on on both sides of the bridge and even on the bridge. This historic bridge, which is the oldest in New York City, goes over the Harlem river and connects Manhattan to the Bronx(it’s a pedestrian-only bridge). The High Bridge was originally part of the Old Croton Aqueduct which I’ve mentioned many times before since I often run on the trail that follows the path of the now defunct aqueduct in Westchester county.2015-07-25 12.34.32

 

I’ve been meaning to do this forever. I remember driving under or near this ghostly structure countless times during my childhood. But this relic was impassible, and in desperate need of repair. So now it’s finally open, and it’s much easier for pedestrians and cyclists to get from Manhattan to the Bronx. I felt so ecstatic crossing it while juggling, and many people were very amused. It’s possible I’m the first person to joggle across the High Bridge, unless some other jogglers in the area beat me to it. The day I joggled across the bridge(I didn’t drop), I also noticed some unicylists on it who probably had the same idea. The kids loved it! Later on, along with some friends and as a walking juggler, I took part in this Giraffe(giant paper mache giraffe heads)parade across the bridge, and the kids loved that too.

How am I able to do this? It requires a lot of dedication, but the rewards are endless. All this acrobatic fun is the end result of a very healthy lifestyle that includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, getting enough sleep, and knowing how to deal with stress. Indeed, joggling may be one of the best ways to deal with stress since it is such a powerful, full-body exercise. It puts your mind in this unique “zone” that makes it more difficult for stress to get to you. That it makes people around you smile is a nice bonus.

 

Scott Jurek sets new world record running Appalachian Trail

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As I am sure many of you already know, vegan ultra-runner Scott Jurek set a new world record by running the Appalachian trail, a 2,189-mile journey in 46 days, 8 hours, and 7 minutes. He beat the previous record by 3 hours. He holds numerous other world records for ultra-running.

It’s an understatement to say that much of the vegan community(and running comunity) was thrilled when Jurek completed yesterday. I know I was. I’m really happy for Jurek, he’s one of the ultimate vegan role models. It’s moments like these when we can really drive home the message that a vegan lifestyle is not a limiting one. Congratulations Scott Jurek! You’re one of the most inspiring people in the world! Vegans rejoice!

As for joggling the Appalachian trail: Will keep everyone posted when and if that happens.

Veganism adrift – Why we shouldn’t be so quick to praise “vegan” celebrities

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Painting by Ludolf Bakhuizen

As a vegan, I am angry. I am angry because the word “vegan” has been diluted to near meaninglessness by weight-obsessed pseudo-vegan celebrities, and the cult-like adulation they receive from a large part of the vegan(or rather “plant-based”) community. It seems every time a celebrity goes on a mostly plant-based diet purely for vanity reasons, the usual suspects promote them as the ultimate vegan role model. As a way to promote veganism, this approach pretty much always backfires for the vegan community, at least for those who do it for the animals(as if there are other types of vegans; more on that latter). The foolishness of this spectacle is nauseating for vegans who know better.

It turns out that Beyoncé, the “vegan” role model du jour doesn’t just wear fur, she still still eats meat. A “vegan” who eats meat? Personally, I always thought the fur thing and the fact that she said she was doing it simply for weight-loss disqualified her from having anything to do with veganism. Still, this didn’t stop the vegan non-thinkers brigade from proclaiming Beyoncé as the new vegan idol.

Many vegan activists claim when celebrities go vegan or near-vegan, even though it is almost always temporary, insincere, and not for ethical reasons, this helps spread the word about veganism. I see things very differently. It’s already a lost cause if the veganism the celebrity is promoting is a temporary crash diet motivated purely by vanity or health reasons, since that isn’t what veganism is about in the first place. It’s not just a fad diet, it’s a lifestyle concerned with reducing animal suffering and is a life-long commitment. Or at least, that’s what it used to be about, before the plant-based health-nutters appropriated the term “vegan”. While I realize there’s a lot of overlap between health-conscious people and ethical eaters, this doesn’t change the meaning of “vegan”. Of course, if a celebrity does go vegan for ethical reasons, that’s great, and they could be useful for promoting the vegan lifestyle.

The only things these celebrity worshiping antics accomplish are confusion and further diluting the message of veganism. Ultimately, vegan celebrities make unreliable role models because all-too-often, they revert to their old meat-eating ways, giving the impression that veganism is difficult to stick to. And this isn’t just a hazard of health veganism, since some ethical vegans may also give up on veganism for whatever reason.

In the very least, I think the semantic issues could easily be resolved if people who go “vegan” exclusively for health reasons called themselves “plant-based” or “strict-vegetarian”; leave “vegan” for ethical eaters. It is, in essence, a word that describes an ethical lifestyle, not just a diet.

Related:
Does Beyoncé really understand what veganism is about? by SCOTT LAJOIE